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NATO defence ministers meeting via teleconference in Brussels

NATO to Investigate France-Turkey Standoff in the Mediterranean

BRUSSELS – NATO will investigate the confrontation between the French and Turkish navies in the Mediterranean, the bloc’s secretary-general said Friday after France accused its NATO ally this week of violating a United Nations arms embargo against Libya.
“The incident in the Mediterranean was addressed at the meeting by several allies,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said during a press conference that followed a meeting of the bloc’s defense ministers.
“My message is that we have made sure that the NATO military authorities are investigating the incident to clarify what happened.”
France accused the Turkish navy on Wednesday of harassing its warship, the Courbet while trying to inspect a cargo ship in the eastern Mediterranean suspected of transporting weapons to Libya.
According to the French Defense Ministry, the Turkish frigates carried out radar attacks three times when Courbet approached the civilian cargo ship.
A French Defense Ministry official described the incident to Agence France-Presse as an “extremely aggressive” act. “We cannot accept that an ally behaves in this way, that it does so against a NATO ship, under NATO command, carrying out a NATO mission.”
“These waves of ships between Turkey and Misrata, sometimes escorted by Turkish frigates, are not contributing to any reduction,” added the official, Misrata is a Libyan port east of Tripoli.
Turkey denied the events described by France, calling them “completely false”.
Tensions have risen in recent months between the two NATO allies over their involvement in Libya’s chaotic civil war.
Turkey, along with Qatar and Italy, supports the UN-recognized National Accord Government in Tripoli. Although Paris denies it, France is suspected of backing the Libyan National Army’s rivalled by the eastern-based strongman, Khalifa Hiftar. Who also has the support of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia.
The French Foreign Ministry said earlier this week that violations of the arms embargo and “foreign interference, in particular the intensification of Turkish support,” were prolonging the war.
In a statement of her own, Ankara accused Paris of “unacceptable behavior” in the North African county.
“The support that France has given to the coup-plotter and pirate Haftar … has exacerbated the crisis in Libya,” said the Turkish Foreign Ministry. “What should be of concern is France’s dark ties.”
With Turkey’s support, the National Accord government managed to push Hifter’s forces back this month after a 14-month offensive in Tripoli.
Since then fighting has broken out in Sirte, a coastal city southeast of Misrata that the National Accord Government is trying to recover from the Libyan National Army.
(Sahar News Monitoring Desk)

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